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As Thanksgiving Nears, Thank the Media that Covers Your Utility

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Andy Gotlieb's picture
Editor of a specialty publication, former public relations practitioner Freelancer

I hold 34 years of experience in communications, mostly in journalism, with a decade in public relations, too.  The first 17 years were spent in print journalism, where I covered, at various...

  • Member since 2016
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  • Oct 27, 2021
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With Thanksgiving less than a month away, you might already be reflecting on what you’re thankful for, even if 2021 will be remembered as a challenge-filled year.

You’re likely thinking about family members, health care workers, teachers and public safety personnel, among others. The journalists that cover your utility probably aren’t too high on the list.

But they should be recognized.

Yes, they sometimes cause problems when they report on things unfavorable to your utility. And yes, they often don’t cover what you want them to cover.

But as a journalist for nearly 40 years, if you count my college newspaper work, I know that kind words are a rarity. That means that saying thanks or offering a bit of praise to reporters and editors can pay future benefits.

Believe me, it isn’t easy being a journalist. If I had to do it all again, I probably would have chosen a different profession.

Some journalists get killed or assaulted every year, although that’s more common in less-developed countries. Whenever there’s a survey of professions, “journalist” ranks near the bottom for both future prospects and for most-trusted professions. The pay stinks, and there are fewer and fewer jobs. Politicians increasingly blame the media for everything, and everyone shouts “fake news” at the drop of a hat.

That’s why thanking journalists is important.

Small gestures can go a long way. A brief email or short phone call is worth the time, as is a thank-you card if you want to go old school.

You likely have a reporter or two who regularly covers your utility. Ask if you can meet at a local coffee shop for 30 minutes to humanize your relationship. The goal isn’t to get immediate coverage but to share your needs and interests and pave the way for future possibilities. Familiarize the reporter with the utility and describe in vague terms what you think might be newsworthy for the rest of this year and early 2022.

Whatever you do, don’t send any gifts that cost more than a few dollars. There are ethics codes in most newsrooms that prohibit staff from accepting gifts – the fear is that integrity could be compromised.

None of these steps is a guarantee that you’ll secure positive media coverage, but that’s not the goal. Smart public relations centers around relationships. Believe it or not, but journalists are human. Presenting yourself as a friendly face can get you on their good sides and also get you a more favorable shake each time you come pitching a story.

Andy Gotlieb's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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